Photo Essay: Nature’s resilience in the face of heat and drought

As I write this, it’s a humid 97° outside, and the city of Bloomington is about to mandate water conservation.

I spoke to my friend Ellen today, in Twin Falls, Idaho. Temps hovering around 100° there, day after day, but even drier, in a desert environment. She and her husband woke up today with fires burning in or near Boise, Holliston, and I can’t remember where else. Ringed by fire. Air as smoky as 1995, the unforgettable year when Yellowstone burned, and we were all living in yurts in the Tetons.

As I write this, I’m hearing about drama after drama between and among humans, in my neighborhood, and others. Intense, searing, polarized.

How to maintain resilience in the midst of shocks to the system, during this period of massive, chaotic change?

I suggest we take a lesson from the plant world, where, in a natural state, many plants of different species tend to crowd together, shelter each other, nourish each other, the waste of one species serving as food for another species nearby. Plants of different sizes, growing up as time goes on, in what is called “succession,” small bushy plants, to larger ones, to small trees, to larger trees that end up sheltering the whole with a leafy canopy.

On my walks through Bloomington and the Indiana University campus in the early morning over these past three months of excessively hot, dry conditions, I’ve noticed places where plants are allowed to “do their thing.” And I realize now that though I knew about succession, my knowledge was theoretical. To actually see the effects of succession in action has been a revelation.

About four years ago, I.U. stopped cutting all the grassy meadows on campus, deciding to let parts of some of them “go back to seed,” find their own footing as natural midwest prairie habitat, with seeds dormant in the soil or brought in by wind and birds.

Today I decided to take some pictures of one area where this back-to-nature program has been initiated.

But first, here’s puppy Shadow with one of the newly planted little trees that despite regular watering into its “treegator,” died, from the heat. Notice the dry condition of the grassy meadow.

Walking a bit further north on the dead meadow, notice the nearly verdant, diverse conditions in the background, lining a small stream that only barely holds water.

Closer up:

Well, you might say, but there are big trees, so shade. Maybe that’s responsible for the verdant quality of the reverted-to-natural-succession midwest grasslands. But look more closely; not much of this broad swath of succession is actually in the shade.

We kept walking. Came upon an IU fountain that hasn’t yet been turned off. I imagine it will be once the new water rules go into effect on Monday. (And the flower plantings? Will they be starved of water, too? If the rules are applied fairly, then yes.)

On our way home, we pass by the other side of that same diverse, back-to-nature succession greenery. Notice the little trees that are being shielded from the intense sun by surrounding plants. No treegators for these tiny trees, and yet they live.

Even closer. Check out the little maple trees. Barely visible. Alive! Very alive. And no extra water. Just nature, doing her thing, resilient, able to withstand shocks to her diversified system like this drought so much better than any of our monocultured lawns, “crops,” and attitudes.

The same view, with the dead meadow beyond, where I had walked to begin this photo essay.

Did you know that the word “culture” comes from “cultivate,” to till the soil? It appears that when we started to till the soil we ignited the terrible separation from nature’s wisdom that has now reached its end-game, the obliteration and/or transformation of our oh-so-cultured civilization.

Here are two essays that also speak to our current drought and various take-away lessons we need to drum into our thoroughly cultivated heads.

How Back-to-the-Landers in California Inspired a Japanese Farmer to Fight Desertification


The Silver Lining in This Drought

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0 Responses to Photo Essay: Nature’s resilience in the face of heat and drought

  1. laurabruno says:

    Time to start working with the water and earth elementals to bring some rain to nourish the Earth! It’s weird, but ever since I begged the elementals to bring some rain to Madison during our drought, not only did it rain heavily within 24 hours, but it has continued to rain several times per week ever since. Things are recovering their green here. Rain barrels are full. I am very grateful. I know several of us were doing rain dances, rain prayers and other offerings for water, but those elementals are powerful.

    They gave me their word it would rain within 24 hours, and even though only a 30% chance, it did. Things have continued ever since, especially at night, with soft evening rains and usually sunny days. Today is an exception–long, slow rain for most of this afternoon. Wishing you much moisture down in Indiana! Water restrictions don’t mean much if the skies start raining. 🙂

    • Thanks, Laura, for the nudge. I will put it into motion around here. And yes, those water restrictions were always meant to be temporary . . .

    • Well, well, it rained last night, after I “drew down the rain” energetically in a very serious way, twice. Once while out walking at about 8 p.m., and again, at around 3 AM when the threatening thunder finally let it loose. Related? Who knows. But GLAD. Thanks.

  2. laurabruno says:

    Awesome! I’m telling you, those elementals are powerful beings, and they are looking to help humans interested in helping the planet. Well done, All!

  3. The same “calling down the rain” method works in Georgia, too. It is all about pure intent. Ask that the rain come in a good, kind, and gentle way. It will come. And so it is. Linda

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